about me
niklas roy
Hello! I'm Niklas Roy, an inventor of useless things. As you can find a lot of information about what I do on the left - I think I don't need to write too much about myself here.

If you want to get in touch with me, you can find my contact details here. In order to stay up to date, subscribe to my RSS feed. For realtime news, follow me on Twitter. Subscribe to my Youtube Channel or have a look at plenty of hires images in my Picasa albums.


New Workshop: Rocket Science

Monday August 7, 2017

Space, the final frontier, has fascinated humankind ever since we started to stare at the sky. Already half a century ago NASA’s Apollo program brought people to the Moon and the next generation rocket scientists are eager to make space flight mainstream. We also wanted to take part in the YouTube era space race where DIY rocketeers work in parallel with the big players, making their R&D with plastic bottles and hardware store materials.

[ Read more ]


Saturday June 24, 2017

Kati’s and my Public Painting Machine is part of the exhibition SMART FACTORY, which opened yesterday in Le Havre as part of the city’s 500th anniversary cultural program. Charles Carcopino curated this splendid show, which is all about machines that make art!

Our machine is a little bit different, though, as its main purpose is to produce artists:
The visitors are invited to create collaborative paintings by pulling on some strings. Those paintings become part of the exhibition and are finally sold in a glamorous auction on September the 3rd at Le Tetris. All participating artists which have contributed to the paintings will receive the money for their work directly in cash from the collectors that will buy the paintings. Starting bid is one Euro, so this is also a great opportunity to become a prestigious art collector while keeping the financial investment low!

The following artists also present works in the exhibition: Karina Smigla-Bobinski, Patrick Tresset, Véronique Béland, Kris Verdonck, So Kanno, and Grégory Chatonsky.

You can find more hires photos of the installation in this album.

Scientific Truth Proclaimers, Moscow

Monday June 5, 2017

Kati and me just returned from Moscow, where we gave a hardware hacking workshop in which we built self driving propaganda robots. The kind of “propaganda” which we spread with the autonomous vehicles in the famous Gorky Park was all about eternal scientific truths. Thus the title of the workshop.

Here’s the documentation and a video.

Vladimir presents the PI-recitor

Picture above:
Vladimir holds a robot, which recites the decimals of PI. It reminds me of the weird story of the Indiana Pi Bill.

Workshop at ÉCAL

Wednesday May 10, 2017

Recently, I’ve been giving a workshop at ÉCAL in Lausanne, Switzerland. I asked the students to come up with novel communication devices. Erika Marthins, Arthur Moscatelli, Pietro Alberti and Andrea Ramìrez Aburto built a color to smell translator which they called “Bouquet” within just one week!

The cone shaped device has an optical sensor built in its tip, with which it can recognize different colors. Inside the cone’s bottom is a stepper motor controlled disc, that turns pads with according scents directly under the nose of the operator. If you’d point it to a red color for example, the disc would turn a cotton pad, which is soaked with strawberry aroma, to the device’s smell opening.

The students found some great natural smells for the different colors. Representing blue turned out to be a bit of a challenge, though. At the end, they decided to translate it to the fresh artificial smell of a chemical “Blue Ocean” room fragrance, which was fitting very well.

To round up this brilliant work, they even designed a series of colorful posters with which everyone could try out their little synesthetic machine.

More photos of this workshop can be found here.

DIY Thermal Imaging

Sunday January 15, 2017

I recently made some thermal images with an IR thermometer, a webcam, two servos and an Arduino. Read here how I did it.

Complete scanning rig with 2 servos, Arduino and an action cam for the reference picture.

IR image of the shopfront

IR image of the front door

gDraw - free software for you!

Sunday December 18, 2016

gDraw Screenshot

I recently wrote a little piece of software – and I thought I should share it before Christmas. It is a 2D drawing program which creates a G-Code file that can be 3D printed. I just used it to make greeting cards and maybe you need a last minute gift and want to do the same.

Or you want to use it to make delicate window decoration, or sophisticated business cards, or you just need to keep your kids busy, or perhaps you have a much better idea for what this code can be used. In that case, drop me a line, because I’m curious to hear what you came up with!

Scroll down to find out how to download & to use gDraw.

2D greeting card printed with a 3D printer

2D greeting card printed with a 3D printer

2D greeting card printed with a 3D printer

Here’s how it works:

Download and installation:

First you need to download gDraw as .zip archive from my server – or you can find the code also on Github. gDraw is written in Processing, which you also have to download. Processing works with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and you can get it here for free.

How to use:

Unzip the downloaded archive and place the folder “gDraw_V0_15” in Processing’s “Sketches” folder. Then run gCode from Processing.

You can draw in two modes, the free mode and the fixed mode. “Free” is nice for organic drawings, “fixed” is good for geometric drawings, as it creates always straight lines in a metric grid. You can toggle between the two modes either by pushing the button “F” on your keyboard or by hitting the free/fixed button in the menu on the left.

You can zoom in and out of the canvas with the mouse wheel.

Interrupt the line by hitting the space bar. The program displays the path of the printhead, when it just moves but does not print, as a thin line. Because the printhead might still squeeze out small amounts of plastic during those paths and therefore you might want to keep control over where the printhead moves exactly.

You can save drawings by hitting the save button and you can load them again by hitting the load button. As the current drawing will not be deleted when you load a path, you can merge drawings by loading one drawing after another.

Finally, in order to create printable G-Code, you hit the “save G-Code”-button. You have to give your file the extension “.gcode” otherwise your printer might not recognize it as a valid G-Code file.

How it works:

G-Code is the “language” that a 3D printer understands. It is a text file, with a list of coordinates for X, Y and Z axis, and also for E (the extrusion motor). The printer reads this file, moves from coordinate to coordinate and squeezes out plastic as indicated in the value for E.

gDraw is a simple vector drawing program that turns your drawings into G-Code so you can print your drawings as lines of plastic.


I have an Ultimaker 2, so I wrote the program in such way that it works with my printer. If you have a different printer, you might have to adapt the G-Code header in order to make it work for you. Have a look in the lines 486-511 of my code. This is where the G-Code header for the Ultimaker 2 is written.

Post-Factual Science Experiments

Friday November 11, 2016

Lately, I’m having some fun with building a post-factual science laboratory. Here are some pictures of cosmic energy receivers. These are early prototypes. Let’s see where that research goes ;)

Music Construction Machine

Wednesday July 6, 2016

The documentation of my large scale, generative music box is now online! With videos and sound recordings. You can find it here.

Remote Controlled Beer Crate

Monday June 6, 2016

“If you want to be successful on YouTube, you should build things like remote-controlled beer crates.“, Kati once said to me. Besides the tempting promise of viral online fame, I found that quite a funny idea! So last Saturday, I built one. Let’s see if Kati was right with her thesis!

Here’s the video (Caution: I also put “heavy metal” music on it, because I think that helps to support her postulation):

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My current project

Saturday February 6, 2016

[UPDATE: Here’s the final documentation of the installation including videos and sound recordings.]

Dear Interwebz! Since it will take a while until I can post a new project here on my website, I figured it might be nice to let you know what I’m working on right now. My plan is to build a very big hand cranked music box. It will use real instruments – an electric guitar, a keyboard and a drum set. I have worked on the keyboard and guitar mechanisms so far. Here’s a recent photo:

Music Construction Machine

In early summer, the machine will be ready and on public display in a glass pavillion in Wroclaw, Poland. Everyone will be free to operate it 24 hours a day. I’ve drawn a floorplan of the setup as I imagined it, but of course the details might still change. The installation will be called “Music Construction Machine”.

Floor Plan Pavillion
Usually one music box repeats the same melody over and over again. But I’ve decided to build the Music Construction Machine in such way that it generates ever changing melodies. It does that by following an algorithm, which is implemented in mechanical hardware, consisting mainly of ropes, pulleys, springs and weights. The pulleys will drive many different mechanisms, which then will operate the instruments. Besides producing a (hopefully) interesting music, there will be plenty of moving parts to be seen and to be investigated inside the pavillion once visitors start operating the crank.

Plenty of pulleys!

Below you can see the melody mechanism for the keyboard machine. It uses two pulleys of different sizes, which are driven by one rope loop. Both pulleys produce a linear sinewave movement. Due to their different circumferences, the two resulting sinewaves have deviating frequencies. The linear sinewave oscillations then drive the subsequent mechanisms, which move two carriages left and right over the keyboard. From time to time (triggered by a separate rhythm mechanism), the carriages are pulled away from the driving mechanism and pushed onto the keyboard, where they play two tones at the same time.
Although the mechanisms follow a simple inherent logic, which determines the sequence of tones that will be played, the overall behavior of the system is so complex that the sequence appears to be unpredictable for a listener. The result is a melody which is sometimes harmonic, sometimes not, but it definitely has a lot of variation.

Pulleys drive the melody mechanism

Two seperate carriages push the keyboard

Let’s have also a look at the guitar machine! At the current state this has two mechanisms. One picks the strings and the other operates the fret board. Let’s start with the picks: Six levers are constantly moving up and down, with plectra attached to their ends. All of those levers are moved by individual pulleys – and again – those pulleys all have different circumferences. The result is that each plectrum moves in a slightly different speed up and down and the played melody is basically an interference pattern.

Six plectra pick the six guitar strings in an interference pattern

The mechanism below is a ratchet mechanism. It starts with a pulley, which moves a lever up and down. Each time the lever moves upwards, it grabs one tooth of the sawblade-shaped wheel and spins it by 45°. This wheel drives then another lever, which moves a steel pipe up and down the fret board in a sinewave pattern.

Fret board lever construction

You can see the result below. The mechanism creates very psychedelic sounds and the effect is overall very dominant. Which I like. What I don’t like, is the fact that this effect occurs in such a periodic pattern. Therefore, I have decided to add another mechanism to this construction, which will make the pattern appear more irregular.

Steel pipe moves the fret board up and down

Overall, I have to say that the work is on a very good track. Initially, I had some issues which were mainly caused by too much friction, but now (almost 200 ball bearings later) I’m very pleased with the behavior of the machine. Everything makes a sturdy impression, which is essential regarding that it will be operated by the public, day and night, without supervision.

The finished installation will be exhibited from June 17th onwards in Wroclaw, which is one of the current European culture capitals in 2016. The Goethe Institut is organizing the exhibition of the machine as part of their Pop Up Pavillon project. I also want to thank Musikhaus Thomann for supporting my construction with a generous donation of instruments, as well as light and sound equipment.

You can find more photos of this project in high resolution, published under a CC BY 3.0 license, in this album.


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